Category Archives: definition of “o.k” or “okay”

Are We Okay?

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While watching the movie, “Silver Linings Playlist,” I

noticed that the character that Bradley Cooper plays,

enjoys analyzing where words come from. I also like to

look up words, find out variations of definitions and

usages of words. The idea of investigating the ‘roots of

languages’ is another way I feel I am ‘playing detective.’

When the slightly crazy character, that Bradley Cooper

plays, asks about the word, “okay.” He finds out from

Jennifer Lawrence’s wacky character that “o.k” comes from

the period in history when President Martin Van Buren

was president.

Van Buren’s presidency lasted from 1837-1841. He was a

member of the “Old Kinderhook Club.” President Van Buren

and people who originated from Kinderhook, New York, may

have considered and weighed people’s ‘value’ as they met.

Thus, if newcomers were ‘good enough’ to join their “O. K.

Club,” they were “O.K.”

It was also easier to say, “Vote for OK,” while referring

to Martin Van Buren.

I thought this was rather interesting, finding out from

a movie, how a word came about. But, when I went to look

this particular word up, I found a whole different story!

It is a much more complicated and rather bizarre,

convoluted ‘story’ that several sources used. So, here

goes another way to find the roots and history of the

simple expressions, “Okay” or “o.k.”

In the late 1830’s, Boston newspapers’ articles were full

of abbreviations. Some made ‘sense’ and others needed a big

leap of understanding or a stretch of your imagination!

Apparently there was a ‘fashion,’ or ‘fad,’ that included

this use of ‘shortcuts.’ The craze went so far as to

produce abbreviations of misspelled words. The way that

the words became misspelled, seems to be rooted in another

language entirely. These ‘old fashioned’ expressions from

everyday usage evolved into different combinations of

letters with a kind of acronym style.

Let’s see how this goes…

Such ‘popular’ at the time expressions were:

“No go” = N.B.

“All right” = A.R.

“Know go” = K.G.

“Oll wright” = O.W.

and finally, the one you all wished to know why we got this

abbreviation:

“Oll correct” = O.K.

Several of these abbreviations with seemingly nonsensical

misspellings became popular while speaking, not just in

the paper! Can you imagine saying the following?

“That lesson was a K.G.” (Know go.)

“Our plans for going to the movies are a N.G.” (No go.)

The most widespread of this fun speaking trend, was the

use of “okay” or “O.K.”

The Boston Morning Post newspaper got the credit for the

‘first’ use of the word, “O.K.” in 1839.

The use of ‘shortcuts’ reminded me of how I learned to

text faster on my cell phone. By using abbreviations, and

some of the common ways people encapsulate words, I felt

like I was learning a foreign language!

Let’s have some fun with wordplays using the word, “O.K”

as a verb. In this use of the word, the definition is

considered to mean, “approve” or “authorize.”

1. The architect ‘O.K.’d’ the draft for the job.

2. The supervisor ‘okayed’ the idea of a potluck.

In the present verb tense,

3. “Will you okay the document?”

There are two directions, for the same word, that

you can go with okay.

Here is a negative way to interpret the word, “okay.”

Which uses the definition of “mediocrity,” as an

adjective.

When you have eaten something that you like only

a little or really don’t want seconds…

1. The soup was okay.

If you feel the server was only “adequate” you

may say,

2. “She did an okay job.”

Now, here is a positive ‘spin’ on the word! in our

American culture, we use the word ‘okay’ to mean,

‘Way to get things done!’

You are using an enthusiastic tone in your voice, you

may even raise it up a notch, by exclaiming after a

great play in sports:

1. “Okay!”

When I am asked if I would like to go to a concert,

the ticket is being paid by my friend or date:

2. “O.K.!!!”

As an adverb, okay is also used well and has different

ways to interpret it.

While shopping in a crowded store and someone bumps

into you,

1. “I am okay,” you may respond.

When your friend arrives late to lunch and is profusely

apologetic,

2. “It is o.k., don’t worry about it.”

In an accident, while the paramedics are trying to get

your reaction,

3. “Are you okay?”

By nodding your head, you are validating that you are

okay. By shaking your head, you are showing without

words, that you aren’t doing very well.

Back in 1967, Thomas A. Harris, MD. wrote a self-help book

that was called, “I’m OK, You’re Ok.” This was around for

awhile, sharing communication skills, along with the way

you can observe verbal and non-verbal communication. At

the time it was published, Harris found the idea behind

T.A., Transactional Analysis to be fascinating. The book

has gone through several republishing and remained on

the New York Times Bestseller List for two years, 1972-

1974. I could not resist including this in this essay,

since it incorporates one of the most popular uses of

the word, “OK.”

In current relationships, our newest way of finding out

if we are ‘on the same page’ or getting along is to

ask these meaningful words,

“Are we o.k.?”

Who would have thought 2 letters abbreviated could be

interpreted in so many diverse ways?

I may now wonder whether or not this essay on the usage

of the word ‘okay’ was o.k.

Your response could indicate a rather blasé reaction or

it could be a very excited one!